Dirty Politics, Filibusters, Oil Slicks get served up in DC bars

With Congress’s approval rating at 9 percent, it is no wonder “Dirty Politics” is one of the most popular themed drinks at Charlie Palmer Steak.

The steakhouse — located at 101 Constitution Ave. NW, just a five-minute walk from the Capitol — has become one of the few restaurants in D.C. to give all its mixed drinks a political edge. While some bars will indulge in the political theme, many do it only on occasion.

Dirty Politics is a simple martini served with olives stuffed with blue cheese. But dining room manager Todd Salvadore said people order the drink for the name as much as the ingredients.

“It is kind of a classic, and people like the name,” Salvadore said.

The restaurant — known for its Zagat rating and steady stream of politicians — started its drink menu about a year ago, Salvador said, and decided to have some fun with it.

“With the political time and given the location, we wanted to be creative with the naming,” Salvadore said. “It is basically based on location and the number of senators we have coming in.”

Many of the cocktail names have a similar congressional twang to them — The Filibuster, Quorom Call, Misappropriations Manhattan, The First Congress (with Philadelphia’s Bluecoat gin) and The Bipartisan Cocktail (with equal parts vodka and gin).

Other bars around D.C. have been more reluctant to embrace drinks with a political theme, despite being in the most political city in the country.

The general manager of Union Pub on Capitol Hill (201 Massachusetts Ave. NE) said that his patrons deal with politics for eight to 10 hours a day — the last thing they need, he said, is more of it after work.

“We try to give them a break, for the most part,” Brad Ingwell said. 

But Union Pub does occasionally indulge in the political name game. During the State of the Union, the bar served up red and blue shots, and it named a drink the Ted Kennedy in honor of the late senator from Massachusetts, made up of whipped cream vodka, vanilla vodka, a splash of orange soda and a splash of orange juice.

Why so many orange ingredients for a man from the Bay State? No particular reason, says Ingwell — the bar picked a drink at random.

Half a block down, Lounge 201 also only mixes politically themed drinks for special occasion, said Paige Farrell, marketing and events director. During a debate-watch event in 2008, it served the OBAMAretto Sour and the McCain Old Fashioned.

During a Young Republicans Happy Hour, the bar featured menu items like The Obama Bribe Punch, The 73rd Virgin, The Osama Bin Gotten and The Oil Slick (featuring Three Olives Root Beer Vodka and cola).

A manager at Tortilla Coast (400 First St. SE) said the restaurant and bar tries to keep things neutral. Located next to the Capitol South Metro station, the restaurant is sandwiched between the Nation Republican Congressional Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The closest thing resembling a political drink is the Stars and Stripes Margarita.

Just down the street, Bullfeathers doesn’t have a formal drink menu (410 First St. SE), but does serve up an IPA named The Corruption, a local beer brewed in D.C.

In downtown D.C., The Caucus Room (401 9th St., NW) used to have a politically themed drink menu but recently scrapped it, said Cristina Cravedi, who manages events for the restaurant. Now it features some food with political names, like the Balanced Budget Burger.